Breen urges Transport Minister to act as Santa Clause and announce the return of the Shannon/Heathrow Service.

December 17th, 2008 - Pat Breen

Deputy Pat Breen questions Transport Minister during Priority Transport Questions in Dail Eireann on the 17th December 2008.

Deputy Breen: In the Minister’s replies to questions put to him by the transport spokespersons, he mentioned aviation policy and Government policy in respect of maximum connectivity.   Over the past few days we have had good news and bad news.   In my own mid-west region we have seen 200 jobs announced for an American company in Ennis.   The company is there because there is a daily direct transatlantic service which is very important.   On the other hand, we have seen job losses because Heathrow was a very important hub of connectivity for the region.   I know the Minister has had discussions with the airlines, particularly with Aer Lingus and Ryanair in recent days.   Michael O’Leary mentioned that he would restore the Shannon-Heathrow slots in the event of his takeover bid proving successful. The last time I questioned the Minister, I asked in regard to the Border customs protection facility and he told me he would make an announcement shortly, which he did two days later.   With regard to the Shannon-Heathrow service, is the restoration of that service by Aer Lingus imminent and has the Minister had discussions with Aer Lingus in this regard?   The news on the ground is that there may be an announcement before the end of the week.   If there is, I hope the Minister will come back to Shannon , make that announcement and act as Santa Claus for Christmas.


    Deputy Noel Dempsey: I do not think I would make a good Santa Claus.   With regard to the Shannon-Heathrow route and the different meetings I have had with different representatives of Aer Lingus in the past 12 months, I have never failed to highlight that issue.   I have also discussed it on quite a number of occasions with our own directors on the board of Aer Lingus to try to ensure that the link, which is important, is restored.   Again, we are back to the same situation as before.   At the end of the day, it is a commercial decision that Aer Lingus will have to make.


    Deputy Pat Breen: Does the Minister expect Aer Lingus to make a decision shortly?


    Deputy Noel Dempsey: I can only go by what was said in public some weeks back, when Dermot Mannion of Aer Lingus indicated at a meeting in Shannon that it was considering increasing the number of short haul flights.   I can only hope.


    Deputy Pat Breen: The Minister knows more than that.